Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Friday, 25 July 2008
If you've met Phil Ruhle Sr., you won't forget him.
I was introduced to him in November, when he and his co-researchers were receiving the World Wildlife Fund Smart Gear award for the Eliminator trawl at the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle.
Today, the beleaguered New England groundfish industry is suffering another blow. Ruhle's boat, the Sea Breeze, capsized and sank in a storm off of New Jersey Wednesday night. Two crewmembers were rescued by the Coast Guard, but there is no sign of Phil.
Phil's raspy voice and big blue eyes always conveyed the concerns of his fellow fishermen. He was passionate about fishing, his family and the future of the industry.
Our paths crossed several times in the last year, as he worked to promote the Eliminator trawl and have it approved by the New England council. He is an old-timer who remembered the glory days of fishing and has worked his hardest to get us back there.
I loved listening to him, because while he was fueled by frustration, he was determined to do whatever it took to make things right for the next generation.
It has been an honor to know you, Phil.
Bright summer goes, dark winter comes, —
We cannot rule the year;
But long ere summer’s sun goes down,
On yonder sea we’ll steer.
From "A Ballad of Sir John Franklin," by George Henry Boker
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Really, Exxon? Really?
Fans of "Saturday Night Live" may be familiar with the news anchors' segment "Really?"
The gag is that they make ridiculous statements based on ridiculous current events and then ask the scathing rhetorical question, "Really?"
In the Exxon Valdez case, it would go something like this: So you just got your court-awarded damages reduced to one-tenth of the original amount, and now you REALLY want to make sure you get to keep the interest you've accrued on funds that are not and never were rightly yours while your legal team kept the fishermen whose livelihoods you've ruined at arm's length? REALLY?
Is Scott Boras on the Exxon legal team?
If you're not a baseball fan (and I use that word in its original sense, because you would have to be a fanatic to follow Alex Rodriguez's contract negotiations), then you may not know that Boras was A-Rod's agent until recently. He's the one who got him the biggest deal in baseball history and then followed up with a hissy fit last year, which he pitched on the opening night of the Red Sox (read: A-Rod and the Yanks' biggest rivals) and Rockies World Series.
It was as if Boras couldn't stand to be out of the limelight, no matter how much it made him and his client look like complete jerks. (There are lots of words I would have preferred to use there, but I don't want your Internet filter to keep you from coming to our site.)
Sound familiar? Only in Boras' case, he was only taking money from Major League Baseball, where there's plenty to go around.
Meanwhile, the Exxon lawyers are doing their best to be the Anti-Robin Hoods.
The greed in professional sports is nauseating. Exxon's is downright sickening.
Cut the checks already.
Friday, 11 July 2008
A great white shark was allegedly spotted from a beach on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts this week. The sighting resulted in two of the island's big, popular beaches being shut down.
One of them is South Beach, a sand beach known for its surfing waves. When I lived on the vineyard many years ago, it was common knowledge that great whites swam those waters. I understood it to be a surf-at-your-own-risk location. The south side of the island is fully exposed to chilly Atlantic waters.
But the island is in the midst of peak tourism, so beach closures aren't surprising. On the bright side, maybe folks will spend more time in the clam shacks, ordering local fare and funding island fishermen's diesel bills.
I take the sighting as just another sign that our ocean ecosystem is alive and well. It seems that the deep waters of New England are still able to support the largest of predators.
If only we could convince our management council of that.
Wednesday, 02 July 2008
The big start to Maine's summer and seafood season begins this (and every) Fourth of July weekend. Tourists pour into Vacationland seeking lobster; fried haddock; clams, steamed or fried, bellies or strips; fresh scallops; and oysters, along with the traditional accompaniments of slaw, biscuit and fries.
One of the quintessential places to satisfy a hankering for fried and steamed seafood is the Maine drive-in. These are not to be confused with the hamburger stands of 1950s fame. You will not likely find skate-clad waitresses (most of the parking lots are gravel — ouch) or paper hats (these cooks cover their crowns with caps touting high school baseball teams and lumber suppliers).
However, much like the reputation of the old-school drive-ins, there is something innocent and serene about these seasonal eateries. Maybe it's just Maine in the summer with the smell of warm salt air, or the fact that everyone gets out of their cars to order at the stand-up window and plops down on often-sticky picnic tables to feast on a sea of golden yellow fare.
(And in typical Maine fashion, locals rarely refer to these places as "drive-ins." They just call them by name, so if you don't know the closest one, good luck getting directions!)
My husband and I had our rehearsal dinner at the Bayview in Penobscot. It was certainly not fancy, but when it came to choosing how to feed all of my family from across the country and all of his family, mostly from right here, it was a no-brainer. Who can complain about delicious, fresh seafood at the brink of the water in perfect summer weather with just enough breeze to keep the bugs at bay?
Whenever I think about that day, I am so glad I shared that place with so many people who had never been to Maine. It's just one of the little things that makes this state and our country a great place to live.
Here's hoping your Fourth of July, wherever you are, is a celebration of something unique about this great nation.
Wednesday, 25 June 2008
In a miraculous turn of events, Australia and Japan have called a truce at the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting, this year in Santiago, Chile.
The two countries have joined a small working group that will work to bridge the whaling gap.
Japan has volunteered not to hunt humpies in the Southern Ocean this summer (that would be winter to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). Australia agreed, in turn, not to pursue international legal action in the hopes of reaching an international agreement on how to handle research whale takes.
It's no surprise that the Aussie government is now under full attack from some environmental groups.
I'm no gung-ho advocate for whale hunting. But I believe that strong-arm politics are rarely effective and thus must be used in moderation. What's the point of making whaling illegal if those who still want to hunt whales can just call it a scientific sampling? Effectively, it's not illegal.
For every controversial issue, there's at least one group whose life's work is to fight tooth and nail for each side. But at some point, we must put down the harpoons, get out of the Zodiacs and sit down at the table.
Will Greenpeace ever be able to abide any whale hunting? That's doubtful. But maybe, just maybe, opposing political factions can figure out a more reasonable system to allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to partake in a limited whale fishery that does not threaten the species and reduces illegal takes.
At least the IWC is moving in that direction.
Monday, 16 June 2008
The charter halibut bag limit controversy in Southeast Alaska sure is stirring the pot for charter boat owners and recreational fishermen. They all seem quite horrified by cuts to the charter boat angler's daily allotment from two fish to one, and claim they simply won't be able to survive if the ruling stands.
Welcome to our nation's fisheries management process.
How many times have commercial fishermen pled loss of business in the face of dwindling allocations, had the ruling stand anyway, and then gone out of business?
The standard retort is, "That's what you get for overfishing." Well, I could go on a long tangent about water quality, runoff, overdevelopment, cheap foreign imports and other factors of some species and market decline.
But what I will say instead is that a charter fleet is just as capable of overfishing their quota as a commercial fleet is. In some cases, they are more risky because their numbers are not always reported.
Maybe the charter guys should band together to establish charter IFQs. That way, the guys who go out of business can get bought out by the guys who have enough business history to stay in it.
I don't want to sound cold or eager to toss legitimate tourist business aside (I live in Vacationland, so I get it, believe me). What I would like to see is commercial guys taking advantage of recreational publicity to shed light on their own industry struggles.
What I would love to see is the recreational guys joining with commercial interests to keep everyone in business.
Wednesday, 04 June 2008
Forget tilapia. Fish tacos are far more delicious with wild American fish. My husband and I cobbled together this recipe just in time for summer grilling.
1 pound mahimahi (also try swordfish, shark, tuna or any grillable fish)
8 small corn tortillas
2 cups of shredded white cabbage (half a small head)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/4 cup canola oil
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon garlic, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
Mango salsa (buy it or follow my recipe — see below)
Red bell pepper, diced or sliced
Hot sauce (I like green Tabasco on these)
Toss the cabbage in the lime juice, vinegar and sour cream. Sprinkle with salt and let it sit for at least an hour.
Marinate the fish up to an hour, then slice into equal pieces and grill.
Dscn0077Spritz the tortillas with water and toss them on the grill, about 30 seconds on each side.
Assemble your tacos with fish, slaw and your toppings of choice.
We had these with Mexican rice and refried beans topped with melted Monterey Jack cheese and a simple green salad.
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno, minced (keep the ribs and seeds for extra spice)
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup red onion or scallion greens, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Let the jalapeno, garlic and ginger soak in the lime juice in a medium bowl while you prepare the other ingredients. Then toss it all together and enjoy.
Friday, 30 May 2008
It seems the only thing sustainable about oil is its expense.
I must admit I breathed a sigh of relief this morning when Marketplace reported that oil had dropped to just shy of $126 a barrel. I never thought I'd be daydreaming about the heady days when everyone was shellshocked after it passed the $50 mark. (That was less than four years ago.)
But when it comes to fuel prices, as bad as it seems over here, it's always worse in Europe.
In protest of the cost of diesel fuel, French commercial fishermen have been blockading ports and refineries for weeks<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/south_west/7425616.stm">; and in Madrid, they're handing out free fish while they're tied up to the docks.
Welsh fishermen say that between the French blockades and the cost of fuel, they're on the brink of total collapse.
Plenty of American fishermen are tying up to the docks because the price of fresh fish has not overtaken the rising cost of oil.
So what can we do at this point, besides cross our fingers and hope for the best?
Even if there were some sort of revolution in efficiency and/or alternative fuels, the cost of switching over would be overwhelming to most small-boat fishermen or any small-business owner.
The fact is, there is no quick fix for this problem. Protests aren't going to solve the problem (though I can't blame the Europeans, who are paying at least double what we are for the same product), and tying up is certainly not a long-term solution for any fisherman who has to make a living.
I have to wonder if the government stepped in to offer subsidies and tax breaks, would they be a little more careful about the influx of farmed seafood imports?
I guess I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope.
Monday, 19 May 2008
The day after Christopher Tobey, a lobsterman from Kittery, Maine, drowned after his boat capsized on Mother's Day, the reader comments in our Portland paper's online edition exemplified the disconnect between fishing culture and some of the folks on the fringes of fishing communities.
Most comments left condolences for Tobey's son (who survived the capsizing by swimming with the other crewman to a nearby island), other family and friends. But more than one person mentioned the perils of fishing in "bad" or "dangerous" weather.
Here's the thing, there was a small craft advisory for Mother's Day, but certainly no gale warning or thunderstorms. Christopher Tobey, who was 46 and had been fishing since high school, no doubt had fished through many a small craft advisory. On top of that, Tobey and his crew were fishing a special order for Mother's Day. What small-town fisherman is going to say no to that?
Since I started working for this magazine 2 1/2 years ago, I've learned a lot about the tenacity of fishing communities. But it never ceases to amaze me how many people out there have no idea what the daily life of a fisherman really is — even folks who live in fishing towns.
In these media-saturated times, it rarely hurts to speak louder and more often.
Friday, 09 May 2008
This week on "Deadliest Catch," the fellas caught a little Fo'c'sle Fever.
Capt. Keith Colburn (the Wizard), who I now refer to as Cap'n Cup-O-Noodles, spoke loudly and plainly to his brother, Monte, a deckhand and relief skipper.
Those outbursts are a little painful to watch at times, but it's definitely good TV. The more perplexing act of aggression was that of deckhand Matt on the Hansen brothers' boat, the Northwestern.
When I saw the clips of Matt punching a cod, I figured he was letting off some steam after a verbal confrontation with greenhorn Jake. But when the show came back, the clip revealed that he is apparently just kind of, well, let's just say it looked like he was punching cod for camera time. Is that really the best you have to offer, Matt?
My opinion of him was confirmed when Matt went for Jake's throat. If there's anything riskier than rolling around on an icy deck in the Bering Sea, it's letting your emotions get the best of you and rumbling with fellow crewmen on said icy deck. (Not to mention Jake made Matt look even more pathetic as he tossed him onto the deck one-handed.)
It must be tough to be stuck in close quarters with a guy who is possibly a threat to your position in a lucrative job. But as the old hand, not the greenhorn, Matt should know better.
Hats off to Edgar and Sig for managing the situation without being namby-pamby about the dangers of crab boat combat.
Page 31 of 32
National Fisherman Live: 12/16/14
In this episode, Bruce Buls, WorkBoat's technical editor, interviews Long Island lobsterman John Aldridge, who survived for 12 hours after falling overboard in the dead of night. Aldridge was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Pacific Marine Expo, which took place Nov. 19-21 in Seattle.
NOAA, in consultation with the Department of the Interior, has appointed 10 new members to the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. The 20-member committee is composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience who advise the departments of commerce and the interior on ways to strengthen and connect the nation's MPA programs. The new members join the 10 continuing members appointed in 2012.